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Sat Jan 11, 2020, 08:46 AM

Tricycle article on Practicing in the midst of extreme crisis: Try to keep practicing

Source: Tricycle

Practicing in Hell
An Australian chaplain warns fellow Buddhists not to give up their meditation practice in the face of devastating wildfires.

Link: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/australia-fires/

For many Buddhists here, the calm and stillness that come from meditation have been tested by the immense suffering of people, animals, and nature. Even those with significant meditation experience are finding this moment deeply challenging. Those who are new to meditation practice are understandably finding it impossible to sit and find ease. They may think it impossible to respond as my partner did, whose deep renunciation cannot be shaken, not even by wildfires. Along with the acrid smoke, we breathe in daily distress. Our tolerance for those whose decades of inaction on climate change have led to this catastrophe has burnt to cinders. What is left is mere ash and yet another fire, the fire of anger. Many are asking: What can Buddhists do in the face of this? How can I meditate while the world literally burns around me?

With such desperate need in the world around them, many of my Buddhist peers’ practice hangs on by a thread. A number of them have stopped meditating altogether. For some this is just temporary, while they step up and do what they can in this time of crisis. Yet I fear that some of them will never regain their confidence in the many personal and social benefits of meditation. The intense suffering of the external world is turning their attention outward, overshadowing the importance of looking inward, of inner transformation. Their practice is cut; they have mistaken ordinary kindness with ultimate bodhicitta, the awakened compassionate mind.

Every Australian—Buddhist or not—has asked: “What can we do to help?” Many have dug deep. They are all helping how they can––by actively fighting fires, by donating to firefighting services, by volunteering with wildlife rescue organizations, or by giving to those who’ve lost homes and livelihoods. I am moved by how brave, kind, and generous Australians can be, but I also find myself worried for their long term well-being. Without the very practice that equips them to deal with the suffering of the world, how will they cope, not only with this terrible moment but in the long term?

This is why when my fellow Buddhists ask “What can we do to help?” I respond: We should do whatever we can to alleviate the suffering of others while maintaining our meditation practice. It should not be either/or—yet another dualistic choice that is characteristic of samsara, a result of not understanding our interconnected reality. It makes no sense to abandon the one thing that provides resilience in the face of pain and suffering at the very time we need that resilience most. Even if we were willing to abandon our own chance for resilience, it is unkind if not cruel to rob others of any useful example we might have set, any inspiration we might have been to those around us to take up meditation themselves.

More at link above.

Although this article is about the situation in Australia, it would seem to apply to practitioners no matter where we are, as we are or will likely be witness to, or directly touched by, extreme crisis at some point. I know I wonder about this a lot: will I be able to maintain my practice as things deteriorate? I found this essay helpful and hope others might as well.

Thank you for your practice!

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Reply Tricycle article on Practicing in the midst of extreme crisis: Try to keep practicing (Original post)
Mike 03 Jan 2020 OP
sagesnow Jan 2020 #1
Newest Reality Jan 2020 #2
JudyM Jan 2020 #3

Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Jan 11, 2020, 10:40 AM

1. Thank you for this post.


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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Jan 11, 2020, 01:49 PM

2. Much Merit!

Thank you.

Tashi Delek

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Response to Mike 03 (Original post)

Sat Jan 11, 2020, 02:46 PM

3. Total agreement that this is a helpful essay.

I’m not in Australia, don’t even know any Australians, but have been feeling such a deep sadness, particularly about the animals’ suffering. I read something this week about a firefighter who had to take a break and go home because of the sound of koalas’ screaming and the sight of their charred corpses. The reality of what is. NPR had a piece this morning about it, that a billion animals may have died, some species may have been extinguished that we’ve never even known existed, etc. The scope of this tragedy (for humans, too, of course, and for the planet) stirs the deepest part of our compassionate hearts.

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